Sexism


Rod Dreher is the senior editor at The American Conservative. He penned a piece a few days ago about chastity and how it’s been relegated to America’s social trash heap.

The article was in response to Pope Francis’s recent letter, Amoris Laetitia, a rather tortured explanation of the Catholic Church’s continuing lack of comprehension where sex and real people are concerned.

If you are interested at all in what an old celibate man has to say about intimate relationships, you can read his take and others outrage on sex, marriage, divorce and remarriage here, but I am going to focus on the Dreher piece because I find the idea of chastity and the way its been used/continues to be used so repugnant.

Dreher references a young female reader of his blog as the basis of the argument that chastity as an idea has been forgotten by most adults and that this is – in her (and his) view – a huge loss for society.

When you consider chastity as an idea that has always been problematic at best and violently oppressive at worst, I don’t agree at all.

Chastity has been forgotten for a good reason. It only existed is the first place as a way for society and religion to shame and control women and LGBTQs.

It’s a tool of oppression that has – among other things –  allowed sexual abusers to flourish in the priesthood specifically but also in families and society at large. It’s part of what has helped keep females second class and physically vulnerable for thousands of years.

Chastity is the more evil twin of modesty. Both are tools of subjugation, and teaching our children that sex is dirty and their bodies are shameful is one of the deepest roots of the ills of modern society.

Dreher’s young reader bemoans the fact that her friends couple physically without regard to what the church thinks about it.

And not in “scandalous” ways. What she references to is nothing more than dating, consensual sex, and co-habitation. Just the normal stuff of life. Behaviors that humans were engaging in long before religions and governments decided that it was in their best interests to introduce restrictions and instructions. And let’s not kid ourselves that this occurred for any other reason than politics and power.

For some reason though the young woman Dreher quotes, thinks that people don’t value relationships because sex often happens before marriage and sometimes marriage doesn’t happen at all.

I would argue that people don’t value each other because of the screwed up messages they get from religions and pop culture, the latter being a backlash of the first. But the religionists are stuck on the idea that humans are incapable of valuing each other or understanding love and intimacy sans a whooping doses of shame.

Because that’s what chastity is. It’s shame disguised as a virtue.

There’s nothing healthy about teaching young people – females in particular – that their bodies are such a corrosive distraction and temptation that they should not only be well-covered but they should be kept off-limits sexually until  safely housed within the confines a lawful marriage.

There are a lot of good reasons to be choosy about who you form an intimate relationship with but preserving one’s chastity would not top any list I might make.

And I wouldn’t argue at all with the young reader’s idea that intimate committed relationships are something that a some people don’t put much serious thought or effort into. But not because of a lack of chastity. Not because they are knowing or unknowing “sinners”.

People are thoughtless because they are human. They live in the past and the very near future. Seldom in the moment. Rarely thinking far ahead. Mostly self-interested. It’s our humanness that sometimes makes us terrible partners. Chastity and rigid, unrealistic rules about how to date and mate aren’t the fixes for these things.

The Catholic church (much like other faith beliefs) is only interested in sexuality because it allows them a means to exert undue influence and even control over people.

The Roman Emperor Augustus Caesar was among the first to legislate and reward state-approved sexuality. Long before Christianity, Augustus realized that people could be more easily controlled this way. It wasn’t about sin. It was about consolidating power. Regulating women to a more subservient role. Marginalizing LGBTQs. Chastity was a part of that and it’s no small wonder that when the Christians arrived, their religion eventually became the state religion. Roman rule and Catholic aversion to healthy sex were a match made in their particular twisted versions of heaven.

If someone wants to practice chastity as a part of a personal belief system or to be more mindful of themselves and their partners, more power to them. As it stands though, chastity is a blunt tool of suppression with both eyes ever on the prize of control. It tells those it is aimed at that they are shameful, bad, deviant. It teaches people wanting or participating in sex is a personal failing. It springs out of the idea that all sex is sinful – consensual and non-consensual alike.

Chastity is why women are still not equal.

When chastity becomes a choice rather than a coerced obligation, I might be inclined to amend my views, but I don’t see that day on the horizon.

Chastity is best forgotten. And the sooner the better.


 

It irks me when I read that I should be thrilled by the Democratic presidential race because the leading contenders for the nomination are black and woman. When I see that in print what I read is “women should just be happy to have had the shot but should realize that voting for Obama is best”. And why is that what I see? Because it’s still a man’s world. Here we are in the 21st century and women are still literally descended from Adam’s rib. There was a MSNBC article not long ago where Obama is quoted as saying that Clinton should stay in the race as long as she wants. It implies that even he thinks she is a token. The quote made me dislike him, and I haven’t disliked him up until I read that, because it was so condescending. Like “Look, the cute little girl is tilting at the White House windmill while the big boys watch.” I loathe that kind of crap.

 

I know that I am a minority in my belief that women are only free on a fairly superficial level and then only in westernized civilizations. Because we aren’t being forcibly circumcised en mass or imolliated by our husbands when our families can’t pay larger dowries or by relatives who feel burdened by the care of  old widows (or simply lust after their inheritances) – then we are liberated and equal. But we aren’t. Hillary and Barack are virtually indistinguishable on issues but for piddling details, so the issue should be who is more experienced not who is more charismatic (and strong women will never win this game). And is that the case? It doesn’t feel like it. 

 

Young women in France are being expected to provide sex for accommodations. They are being sold for opium in Afghanistan and here in the enlightened West, they rent their wombs and consider themselves equality pioneers for getting naked on their way to the top.

 


 

There is an article on MSNBC discussing Hillary Clinton‘s recent resurgence in Texas and Ohio. The author talks about her main base of supporters being Boomer women with the typical being a 50 year old white woman who is jazzed about the fact that as a gender we are SO close to putting one of our own in the Oval Office. Despite the fact that my husband insists that I am pretty much within spitting distance of being this “typical” Hillarite woman (and I am so not by the way as not quite 45 is hardly 50 at all), I am equally psyched about the prospect of having a woman president. So psyched in fact that my dislike for Sen. Obama is probably at times simply driven by not much other than his “Y”-ness. Though his serious lack of anything resembling a plan for this country and his lightweight Senate rep is not helping him score any points either.  Then there is the issue of his glowing aura. Charisma, a Jesus Christ Superstar-like halo, and a fawning media are grounds for immediate suspicion, in my opinion. Nothing good ever comes of even one of those things and all three could be harbingers of the Apocalypse for all I know.  But like most other old women, I can read a hand-written wall. Messiahs are male and really cool. 

 

Having been accused of being merely a bigot for preferring a female in the White House and having been told that voting for a woman because she is a woman is merely proof that women should never have been given the vote in the first place, I must say that if Sen. Clinton was just offering me “change” and “hope” without any clear idea of how to accomplish something that might actually be “change” and provide real “hope” I would scoff and dismiss her out of hand, much as I have done with Obama. I am too old to be drawn in by style (which the media is quick to point out that Sen. Clinton doesn’t have in comparison to the Chosen One). I want substance with my president too. I want someone who knows that being the president is damn hard work and has a proven track record of being someone who works hard. Well, isn’t that a bit simplistic, you might think? How like a girl to believe that the highest office in the land is achieved by qualifications and elbow grease and not the hand of destiny plucking the worthy from the unwashed. But I don’t believe that such an important job should go to the most popular kid in the class.  Didn’t we all suffer through enough of that in high school?

 

The reason that older women like Hillary Clinton is that she is one of us. She came up through the ranks and, thanks to the shortsightedness of the early feminists, had to do it all whether she wanted to or not. Be the mom. Work the full-time job. Do it better and faster and without a net. And for all that, still be dismissed as just a woman, or wife or daughter or sister.  Somehow in the wake of the Obama tsunami, it’s been lost that a woman being elected president is just as great a victory for civil rights as an Obama win would be. It would be an equal stomping of the White Male American way of thinking and doing. More, in a way, because women are still the near daily victims of the rampant and ugly sexism that dominates not just America but the world.

 

Women in the U.S., it could be/is argued, are on equal footing with men, but we are granted only the superficial freedoms. They keep so many of us – younger women especially – blind and mollified that it might be better if American men were as open with their disregard and contempt for us as men are in other less “enlightened” places in the world.  At least then we would know for sure and be able to point it out. That’s Obama’s advantage over Clinton in this race. Racism can’t hide but sexism in the West is subtle and so easily denied that women have begun to doubt its existence. Pay no attention to that old man behind the curtain, little ladies. Just listen to what the big head is telling you the truth is.

 

And the truth is that it is no more a black man’s turn at the White House than it is a woman’s. 


I was reading an article in Newsweek that put forth the idea that Barack Obama will be the first female president of the United States much as Bill Clinton was the first black president. The idea that Clinton was “black” in a spiritual sense of the word was first put forth by the author Toni Morrison. I can’t speak to the “blackness” of anything, including the former president, but I can talk about what it takes to be a woman and Obama can have the “woman’s touch” in his leadership style ‘til the cows come home but at the end of the day he still has a “Y” chromosome and a dick and that makes him a man.

 

I am not sure why I am supposed to be just as thrilled that a black man is going to be our next president instead of a woman. It is as though black and woman were interchangeable on the minority hierarchy. As though the level of discrimination against each group was the same. As though the prejudice against being female that has been built into civilization since time began, and still exists in many forms – covert and overtly, will be wiped out by a black man in The White House. A man is a man. Black, brown or white. Being male is an advantage according to the rules by which the world is governed everywhere on our planet. Always has been. Still is.

 

Perhaps it is merely the blinkered view of Western culture that ignores the fact that while racism is not well-tolerated and called out, even in situations where it doesn’t exist at all; sexism is alive and well and so deeply entrenched that most women don’t even recognize it for what it is.

 

Women are still second-class. Look at nearly any billboard or commercial, and it is the open promotion of the female as sex object that sells the best and the most. Young women and teenage girls have been convinced that dressing scantily and being promiscuous and predatory sexually gives them power when the truth is that it is birth control that gives us power and freedom from male oppression. Without the ability to control when and if we have babies, we are chattel; and the insidious assault on our rightful access to things like the pill and abortion is slowly ensuring that someday we will once again be imprisoned by our offspring. Giving birth is the single most important factor in determining if a woman will end up living in poverty. Women with children, and without mates because the upside of the sexual revolution only benefited our brother who can eat cake without having to throw a wedding reception to get it, are more often than not are unable to “do it all”. It is difficult enough to work full-time, parent and be the domestic goddess with even the part-time assistance of a male. Despite the idea of men being more useful in the home and with the children, the majority of women still do the lion’s share of housework and childcare.

 

Women are half the population of the world, but one would never know it judging from the lack of political representation in governments all over the world. Even in the United States, the birthplace of democracy, women are vastly underrepresented in all levels of government. The world/men would have us believe that it is our own fault. We don’t participate. We don’t stand for elections. But the rules are different for us when we do. We can’t play power games by being as smart and as tough. We must still maintain an acceptable level of femininity or be branded suspect. Obama is said to be able to play the game like a woman. How ironic is that? That a man can be a woman and be praised for it whereas a woman would be deemed too weak.

 

Women are at the mercy of those who run the world. And it is men who run the world. They do not need to cater to their reproductive needs as women do therefore they deem it unnecessary to factor such things as survival of the species into the workplace. It is women who stall out on career ladders because of children. It is women who lose jobs because of pregnancy. It is women who are penalized by the Social Security system when they retire because they didn’t have the time to put in the time necessary to ensure receiving a benefit payment a person could live off of. Childbirth and child rearing are not skills, and therefore are not important because men don’t have to do it.

 

 

What does this have to do with Barack Obama being the next president? He is a man, and it will be another great snow-jobbing of women if the majority of them can be convinced that his smooth oratory and charisma is an equal substitute for finally being represented in the highest office in our land.  He can’t know however what it is like to struggle in a society that deems you less because of your gender anymore than Bill Clinton knew what it was like to sit at the back of the bus because he didn’t have another choice. It is apples and oranges. Another man is likely going to be the next president of the United States of America? What else is new?

 


The current cover of People features a bikini-clad television actress with the protesting title “I am not Fat!” And she isn’t, not by even the most twisted standards of beauty that have infiltrated our society and handed it new weapons with which to re-enslave women. Ms. Love-Hewitt is a size two, and I mention this only because I know someone will dispute her claim of a healthy weight (and me) and ask. It’s sad really that 40 some odd years into (or after depending on your point of view) the women’s movement, women in the United States are still objects. Which is why Clinton won’t win the Iowa Democratic caucuses or be president. Because she is a woman and women in this country – like most of the rest of the world – are still just the sum of their pretty, or not so parts. Intelligence. Experience. Ability. None of this matters when the easiest way to put a woman back in her place, or at least remind her she is out of it, is to criticize her femininity via her appearance, martial status or commitment to her children.

While it is true that we are allowed to be as naked as we wanna be in the visual self-expression of how far we have come baby, answer me this – how is the fact that we are judged by our appearance and size and “femininity” any different than the Islamic obsession with covering women up? Or the French and Russian governments extolling their female citizens to patriotism via their birth canals? It’s two sides of the same coin, and the coin of the realm is keeping women in their place as second-class and objectified-  with our complicity at times it seems because we don’t help ourselves at all by playing into whatever the status quo may be. In western cultures women parrot the line that we are free because we can be blatantly sexual and can control our bodies, and chose to marry or not, parent or play working girl – all the while starving ourselves and fueling a beauty industry out of control, and reading Cosmo for man-snaring tips. Our pop culture thrives on female parts – in music and films that depict females and their sexuality as dirty and disposable. Beauty magazines that sell self-improvement in the form of diets and exercise programs. Fashion that is designed to accentuate beauty and expose those who are not.

In places like say, Saudi Arabia, women will tell you they don’t mind being seond-tier, covering up and not being able to drive is fine because they appreciate being protected by their males and the society these males have created for them. The China and the India are dangerously unbalancing their gender ratios by scanning their unborn fetuses and aborting girls because sons are better for a family – at least until they are of marriageable age and their are no daughters for them to marry. French women are bearing children in the name of nationalism and unaware of that the racist sentiments that are slowly tearing at the seams of their country is the likely cause their governments are praising them for their efforts. But telling yourself you are in charge of your choices is not the same as being in charge. When there are no options to chose from but the ones carefully pre-selected and laid in front of you by others – how free are you?

So, what does this have to do with Hillary Clinton, you ask most patiently. Just that she represents what women are not supposed to know about or think about becoming. She is educated and articulate and didn’t get where she is by conforming to the rules as they are written for women. She may have chosen the well-beaten path here and there, who doesn’t? For example, remember her changing hairstyles back in the early days of her husband’s presidency when her looks were being constantly criticized in the press – which by the way is one of the ways the media works for the system that wants all women to know that love and respect are reserved for the pretty and the closed-mouthed. Sen. Clinton plays politics the way the boys do and she isn’t supposed to even want to play in the first place. John Irving called this being “sexually suspect” in his novel, The World According to Garp. Women who live their lives against the current. The current fashions. The current standards of beauty as dictated to us. The current standards of womanhood. 
The Register endorsed Sen. Clinton. It’s unlikely to do her any more good than Ms. Love-Hewitt revealing her dress size. A woman is not likely to be the president of this country. Our sexism is embedded in our genes so deep that we don’t even recognize it. We built our country upon the idea that all men, not women too, were created equal and never changed our minds. And don’t think that our founding fathers didn’t know what they were saying. John Adams wife Abigail railed at him for excluding women. Just as they knew they were in the wrong about slavery (Jefferson referred to it as “holding a wolf by the ears”), they knew what they were doing when they wrote “men”.

I am not a Clinton supporter. I haven’t even begun to make up my mind about the presidential field. It’s a little early in the race and future presidents should be put to the test and made to show their stuff and stamina. Nobody has done that yet. But, the Catholic school girl in me can’t abide those who will use the belittling tactics of the old parish priests when confronted with women who won’t sit down, or shut up or just go away. It may be a man’s world, but as someone pointed out to me recently they aren’t the majority. We are. And perhaps it’s time we decide where are places should be.


The book is called NO KIDS: 40 Reasons Not to Have Children and was written by a French author named Corrine Maier. In it this psychiatrist, and mother of two, attempts to dissuade young childless French women from succumbing to the baby fever which is currently sweeping their country. Unlike most other countries in the EU where birthrates have fallen well below population replacement levels and young children are swiftly becoming an anomaly, the French are experiencing a renaissance of motherhood thanks in no small part to government sponsored maternity leaves where mothers are paid full wages for up to sixteen weeks, receive “bonus checks” for having more than one child and enjoy a creche, or childcare, system that is unequaled anywhere. Ms. Maier feels that these programs are part of a larger plan to imprison women in the traditional, and largely unfulfilling, role of “mom”. The phrase she coined for women who buy into the myth that motherhood is the ultimate goal for a women is merdeuf which a French speaker would recognize as the contraction of mère de famille, which is the traditional phrase for a full-time mother or a housewife and someone who makes the act of mothering her career. The contraction of this term, however, sounds like a combination of merde, which any first year French student can tell you means “shit” and oeuf, which means “egg”. Combined these two sounds seem to imply that these xeno-phobes disguised as patriots and uber-mommies are in fact little more than “egg-shitters.”

Now, it may seem ironic that someone who has given birth to and is raising children of her own would counsel women who have not yet had children to steer clear of the “profession” of motherhood, but only if you weren’t a mother yourself. Even the most rabidly devoted mother has moments when she wishes she had opted for the power career or the guy with no real potential other than showing her a really great time. Why? Because it would have been easier and finite. There is no end to motherhood. No way to quit or backtrack. Just 15 or 20 years of intensive, sometimes mind-numbing, and certainly unappreciated but for hindsight freakin’ hard work. For nothing. There are no monetary rewards. No company perks. No advancements. If men had been handed this role at the dawn of creation the human race would have began and ended with Adam and Eve. And yes, I know as a mother myself that there are intangible rewards to having and raising children that shouldn’t be compared with the consumer-driven objectified greediness of the material minded, but when you stop to consider that in the vast majority of the world women are little more than breeding cows with nearly identical rights it is hard to argue against Ms. Maier’s attempt to warn off future generations of brood mares.

It could be the poor translation but I think some of Ms. Maier’s reasons are stupid, but a few drive home the point that women are still being forced to choose between having children and having a life, eg. career. Children are limiting for women in a way that they are not for men. You can argue the point as much as you like but the facts are the facts. Mothers, even really crappy ones, are tied to the early development of their off-spring in a much more physical way than fathers are and because of this, they will inevitably lose time. Time for education or building careers or simply to pursue some personally fulfilling dream. We can’t have it all in the same way men can and it’s time this was acknowledged and made generally known to women before they have babies. An uninformed choice is hardly a choice at all.


Do you hate it when someone tells you that something that you really don’t want to happen, or to have, is for your own good? So do I. And I will tell you why. Because whenever someone tells you that you can bet the house that the good they are speaking of is their own, and your health and welfare and over all well-being don’t have one blessed thing to do with it. Case in point, the women of Saudi Arabia have launched their first effort since 1990 to try and secure the right to drive an automobile. Saudi Arabia is a patriarchal country that makes my Irish Catholic (wait strike the Irish part because the Irish are notoriously matriarchal) upbringing look profoundly feminist. The Saudis strictly interpret the whole “woman in her place (two steps behind I am told) thing”, and women are forbidden to drive based on this skewed point of view. All women. Muslim or not. A woman is a woman is just a sperm receptacle in Saudi Arabia. Saudi men see this, or so they say, as a safety issue. Women and children are safer being driven by men. However, drivers there, whether they are public taxi drivers or private chauffeurs, tend to be foreigners who are, according to Saudi women, notorious for harassing the women and children they are transporting. Which brings me back to my original point. The “good” part of “for your own good” is not about protecting someone. It’s about maintaining something, usually control, and in the case of Saudi Arabian women it is about maintaining control of them by restricting their movement.

But it’s not just Islamic men. The male gender just about anywhere, sometimes aided and abetted by some of the dumbest females I try my best to avoid, spend a good deal of time and energy coming up with ways to protect women from themselves. In my native country of the United States this kind of paternalism takes the shape of groups who oppose reproductive rights from access to abortions to contraceptives. Even with Roe V. Wade, access to abortion, even in the case of medical emergencies has never been so sparse and the ability to purchase legally prescribed contraception from the birth control pill to emergency day after contraception like Plan B is equally in danger. And it’s for our own good. Adult women in the United States must be protected from the “dangers” of these things. The only danger however is to the status quo. As fewer and fewer women have litters of children and more and more put off having children all sorts of things are occurring that is changing the playing field. Most notably is that more women are on playing fields that traditionally they couldn’t access before. The bottom line is that there is no better way to control women than to deny them the right to regulate their own reproductive systems. Being eternally knocked up is better than foot-binding for keeping women in their place.

But it’s not just whole genders that are kept in line. Governments use the “for our good” line to perpetrate all manner of suppressive acts. The Bush Administration, with the blessing of Republican congressional representatives suspended Habeas Corpus to protect Americans from terrorists even while it allows them to imprison “dissident” citizens without warning, without cause, without trial and seemingly without end. In Canada the government of Quebec is attempting to suppress its Islamic population by forcing its women to unveil before being allowed to vote. This is similar to the recent Indiana law in the U.S. requiring photo I.D. for all voters. It is to prevent fraud but the only fraud is that of governments who hide their true motives behind their concern “for the good of the people”.

In the workplace, this hypocrisy takes the shape of wellness programs for employees. Recently back home the government decided to allow employers to charge higher payroll deductions to employees with high cholesterol, over the limit BMI’s or to people who smoke. It is for the good of the employees they say, but the bottom line of the companies and their shareholders is the primary motivation.

For my own good I have been sold a lot of what I now recognize as self-serving crap over the course of my life. It is a shame that I listened to so much of it and more of a shame that I actually followed some of the advice at different times. We are the arbiters of our own good. Skepticism should always be the approach of choice when someone approaches you, or imposes on you, anything that is supposedly good for you.

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